Bikes: Gotta learn to love ’em.

Bill Haight has, and always will, write from a business perspective – from running a business to thinking about relationships between vendors and customers. He also has flights of fancy – from airplane rides to taxi tour – the many ways he uses to better understand the fabric of his beloved Madison.

WIBA talk show host Mitch Henck, and many of his listeners, hate obnoxious, "Spandex wearing" bikers who ignore traffic laws and seem to have an elitist attitude about ownership of the roads.

But folks, we have very good practical reasons to learn to love cyclists.

For one thing, we really can’t fight the bike wave that’s been sweeping our area. The Mayor and the County Executive are both committed to making our community more bike- friendly. They’ve got numbers on their side. Biking is exploding as a means of commuting, competition, healthy recreational activity, social responsibility, and business.

Let’s not fight these facts, but enjoy the benefits it can bring, even if we’re not personally in the Spandex crowd.

I present my case, in no particular order:

  • Last month Lance Armstrong led a reported 50,000 cyclists on Ride the Drive, a six-mile, family-friendly event in downtown Madison. Unlike the tens of thousands who fill Camp Randal, these were participants, not spectators.
  • Madison’s Pacific Cycle calls itself the largest bicycle company in North America. It started as a distributorship, and now owns several bike brands, including the venerable brand of my youth, Schwinn.
  • DreamBikes is a non-profit shop on Verona Road dedicated to changing the world "one kid and one bike at a time." This used bike store is staffed with neighborhood kids, who normally couldn’t afford their own bikes, and who are getting valuable real-world business training.
  • Trek is a world class, premier bicycle manufacturer based in our area. The corporation is major employer and a great corporate citizen.
  • Had the 2016 Olympics been awarded to Chicago Madison would have been home to the cycling event, validating our beautiful hilly countryside as a world-class cycling venue.
  • The recent Ford Ironman competition was just one of a string of cycling competitions held in our area that take advantage of those rural courses. Competitors and spectators spent $2.3 million here and they’ll be back at least through 2013.
  • A European-style race called the Centurion debuted in Middleton in July. Although rain dampened the inaugural event, it will be back in 2011 and is expected to grow to Ironman numbers. The Centurion is the brainchild of Graham Fraser, who created the eight Ironman races in the United States and Canada and recently sold that franchise.
  • The popular Magnus downtown restaurant is being made into a bike-themed bistro, presumably tapping into the popularity of cycling as an urban transportation mode that will fit in with Magnus’s proximity the new rail station (yes, the new trains will have bike racks) and the proposed urban market. Magnus’s owner also is planning a cycle-only accessible restaurant on a Madison bike path.

Those examples suggest a few reasons why we should seize the opportunity to promote the Madison area as a cycling Mecca.

Finally, let’s just be practical: Who would you rather share the road with on your morning commute, 100 bicycles or 100 cars?

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